Hair pollution

| October 05, 2005

Hair care doesn’t mean squirting a pound of gel into your hair and sculpting a wild ‘do, but it does mean making sure that the hair you have is healthy.

How does your hair look? Your hair can be a reflection of your general health, and taking care of it is more than just trying to look good.

Dandruff, itchy scalp, dry or oily hair and hair loss are all hair care issues that are treatable and preventable with the right know-how.

Known also as seborrhea, dandruff is an inflammation of the scalp that is normally the result of excess oil. Flakes are white and spread throughout the hair. If flakiness includes severe redness, inflammation and blisters, the condition is dermatitis or eczema and should be treated by a doctor. Flakes that are yellow and accompanied by red, itchy skin around the eyebrows, nose and beard could be a condition called seborrhoeic dermatitis. A doctor can also treat this condition.

To treat dandruff, one shampoo may not be enough. Buy a shampoo with antifungal and antibacterial ingredients, one with zinc and one with salicylic acid. Use one shampoo for a few days and then switch. If the flakes haven’t disappeared in a couple of months, see a dermatologist for a prescription shampoo.

Dry flakiness and itchy scalp
Although similar to dandruff, dry flakiness is characterized by white, powdery flakes on the head and around the nape of the neck. Dry weather can affect your scalp, so change to a moisturizing product until the flakes disappear or the weather changes.

Terri Gaines, hair stylist for 13 years at Iowa 80 truckstop, sees a lot of trucker pates every day. Changing water from state to state can cause dry, itchy scalp, she says. Gaines also recommends using a leave-in conditioner to combat dryness.

If your scalp is perpetually dry, use a shampoo that says “mild” or “gentle” and look for the ingredient sodium laureth sulfate. And don’t take excessively hot showers, as hot water has a drying affect on hair and skin.

Wearing your hair in a ponytail and under a cap all day can cause an itchy scalp as well, so remember to take a break and leave that hat on the dashboard for a few hours.

Oily hair
As with dry hair, some people just have naturally oily hair. A certain amount of oil is healthy to maintain the hair follicles, but excess oil can cause hair to look dirty and unkempt.

Greasy hair must be washed nearly every day, especially if it is thin or short. Choose a gentle shampoo and a light conditioner, and massage shampoo only into the scalp with the flat part of your fingers rather than the tips. Shampooing your hair with dishwashing liquid will also help control the oil, although it may be too drying to use every day. Also, don’t brush or comb your hair excessively because the activity stimulates oil production.

Scalp acne
Breakouts can happen anywhere, especially on your scalp. You can treat scalp acne the same way you would treat any breakout by applying a skin cleanser with salicylic acid to the breakout area with a cotton ball. Astringents and creams are also effective in drying up breakouts, but only use these products on the skin area because they will dry out your hair. Do not use acne treatments with a peroxide ingredient on your scalp because they could change the color of your hair. This is especially important if you have chemically- or color-treated hair because the strands are already porous and easily damaged.

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